How to navigate 3 tiers of window replacement cost

November 18, 2011

If you feel like you need to take out a second mortgage to finance your window replacement costs that's probably because finer fenestrations can cost thousands of dollars each. When in doubt about how much to shell out, first know thy budget. Second, know the three, primary, pricing categories for windows.

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3 ways to look at replacement window costs

While there is a certain cost to value ratio that applies to replacement windows, there are also so many combinations of materials, styles, and finish options available that with a little homework and research, you will be able to find well-made windows in your price range.

There are three different categories of replacement window cost. At the low end, there are

  1. Value windows. Not long ago, value windows were synonymous with plain-looking aluminum. Times have changed. Now, even high-end manufacturers are offering value windows for budget shoppers. They even come in materials other than aluminum. For example, Andersen makes a basic double-hung wood window with double-paned glass in their 200 series. It sells for about $250.

  2. Mid-range windows. Here's where you can get the most creative with materials, glass treatments and finished hardware to arrive at combinations that fit your budget. According to the 2010-2011 Cost- versus-Value study done by Remodeling Magazine, the national average cost for a mid-range, vinyl window was $1,106. It was $1,202 for a wood window replacement. In addition to window frame material, another big cost factor is the type of glass. Most windows at the mid-range price point come standard with low-E glass, which is Energy-Star-rated for energy efficiency.

  3. Premium windows. According to the same Cost-versus-Value study, the national average price for premium windows was $1,428 for vinyl and $1,822 for wood. Premium windows generally come standard with high-end hardware and energy-efficient glass. The price range can escalate for windows with custom shapes and sizes, or those made out of more expensive materials, like composites or fiberglass.

Total window replacement cost: the fine print and fine tuning

Regardless of the price range another important measure of quality is the warranty included. Some mid-range windows are guaranteed for life, while other, more expensive premium windows are not. Are you okay with buying new replacement windows this decade, if you must?

One great way to stay within budget is to get creative with window placement. If one side of your house is more exposed to the public or elements, consider purchasing high-end windows with great glass and insulation for that side, and select value windows for other places in your house.

Mix one-part research, one-part home design and one-part budget and you have a solid recipe for window shopping success!

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